Researchers had found that there exists a major link between a risk gene for stroke and incidence of stroke in young adults.
According to a report presented at the 130th annual meeting of the American Neurological Association in San Diego, the gene, called phosphodiesterase 4D (PDE4D), had been found to increase the risk of stroke in a study in Iceland.
A team of researchers from several institutions has now confirmed this result in a biracial group of young American women. They identified a structural variation, or polymorphism, in the gene that was associated with increased risk of stroke in both young black women and young white women. Furthermore, this association is present for small blood vessel disease as well as for large artery atherosclerosis.
The import of these results is confined to research for the moment. Identifying risk genes in stroke is particularly difficult because many genes appear to combine with a variety of environmental risk factors ranging from smoking to use of oral contraceptives.
The identification of the PDE4D gene is thus an important advance. Several other studies have examined the association of PDE4D with stroke in different populations and most studies provide support for the original Icelandic findings. The next challenge is to determine the specific gene variations responsible for the association and how they influence the proteins that are coded for by the PDE4D gene.
Another important application will be to develop drugs that reduce stroke risk by specifically targeting the gene or its products.